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Monday, June 20, 2011

Using Social Media Carefully: Keeping Companies and Brands on Good Terms

Social media becomes a sensitive subject when people use it in a negative way to post offensive material or make disparaging comments. Even worse is when these negative posts become connected to the company they work for or are about the firm they represent.

Bad News
Not many people are likely to forget the two Domino’s Pizza workers who made a mockery of their employer or those from Taco Bell who posted pictures of rats in the restaurant. Other companies fear that their intellectual property and proprietary information may end up on Facebook or YouTube.

From people exhibiting a lifestyle that contrasts with the values and ideals of their employers to those who tweet about things that show their organization in a racist light like the recent Albuquerque police officer, social media must be used carefully and a way that leaves the company in a good light. Despite the Albuquerque police officer being punished for his offensive Tweets, he carried on and is now involved in an investigation, involving pistol whipping. Taken together, social media may not be working in the favor of the local police department.

Good News
But, for seemingly every example of one bad apple in the social media barrel, there are examples that illustrate the benefits of bringing employees and social media together. A Dutch study noted that innovation improved with employees that were given access to and full use of social media tools.

Numerous employees around the world have used their personal social networking sites to praise their employers or help with viral marketing initiatives, noting that social media, when used correctly, can also help and organization and make employees feel involved in creating positive change.

Smart News
What an organization may need to think about is a social media policy that provides a framework from which to show their employees how they think social media should be used when they are representing themselves as part of a company or brand. Companies must tread carefully in terms of balancing employees’ rights to free speech with concern over intellectual property rights and potential defamation of the company’s reputation.

New legal studies are asking companies to tread lightly with employees who might use their personal Facebook and Twitter pages to complain about their jobs. Employees have to vent and as long as nothing inflammatory or defaming is said, it is important to let them have their space.  However, important areas to address immediately are posting that have racially charged rants, company secrets, or other types of inside information.

Your News
What has been your experience with social media and your employees? Do you have a strategy that works? Let us know by adding your comment below.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Developing a Social Media Policy That Fits Your Needs, Culture, and Strategy

Recently, the Albuquerque Fire Department (AFD) announced that they are preparing to unveil a new social media policy. According to the article, the fire department said it will restrict vulgar posts pictures that could be tied back to the department even if it is posted on a social networking site that an employee uses for their own personal use.
Source: www.flickr.com/

As the articled quoted AFD Deputy Chief Tige Watson, “Anything you taken in the scope of your employment with the Albuquerque Fired Department will be considered our property.” This illustrates the growing recognition that the Internet and social media often greatly influences the reputation and brand of a company – in good ways and in very bad ways. Therefore, whether large or small, it may good to create a formal social media policy for your company.

Social Media Policy Must Have’s
While most must have’s in a social media policy seem like common sense, this does not mean that every employee would be capable of using good judgment, especially with social media tools that they use on their personal time. For example, many people have been fired for posting they were at the beach when, in actual fact, they should have not shared that information because they just called in sick to work.

Hence, the must have’s must help employees get a better understanding of the overall guidelines and parameters of how they should be using social media if they are connected to an employer regardless of whether they are using social media for work purposes or not:
  • Provide clear examples of how to use social media in a positive way and what constitutes punishment or firing in terms of doing something that could damage the company’s reputation. 
  • Explain what type of information and content is off limits in terms of confidentiality.
  • List laws and an easy to understand explanation of what is considered to be content that could involve defamation, discrimination, harassment, and copyright infringement.
  • Link all social media policy to the policies already in the employee handbook so employees make connections between the two in terms of their roles, responsibility, and performance. 

Guide Tips for Social Media Policy Development
Compare some of the great information found online about this hot topic, including numerous articles and guides that are readily available. This will help you gather a number of ideas to help customize your own social media policy. Here are some basic tips:
  • Write an overall social media policy guide for employees that covers the basics on online etiquette and connection to the company. Tie all information to the company’s culture and current policies on public interaction.
  • Add on specific social media policies for specific social networking or media channels as they are necessary. There is no point in including a particular channel if it is not used or your firm is too small to need multiple policies.
  • Consider what other companies have done by using the Social Media Governance website to benchmark the best practices of other company social media policies.
How have you used social media policy to shape how your employees use social media and social networking channels? What have you found successful or challenging? If you need help in developing a Social Media Marketing program for your firm, I hope you will consider allowing Flyline Search Marketing to serve your firm. Please share your thoughts below.

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